Traditional Japanese musical instruments

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Traditional Japanese musical instruments are musical instruments used in the traditional and folk music of Japan. They comprise a range of string, wind, and percussion instruments.


  • Hyōshigi (拍子木) — wooden or bamboo clappers
  • Mokugyo (木魚) — woodblock carved in the shape of a fish, struck with a wooden stick; often used in Buddhist chanting
  • Shōko (鉦鼓) — small bronze gong used in gagaku; struck with two horn beaters
  • Sasara (ささら) — clapper made from wooden slats connected by a rope or cord
    • Ita-sasara (板ささら) — clapper made from wooden slats connected by a rope or cord
    • Bin-sasara (編木, 板ささら; also spelled bin-zasara) — clapper made from wooden slats connected by a rope or cord
  • Kokiriko (筑子, こきりこ) — a pair of sticks which are beaten together slowly and rhythmically
  • Kagura suzu — hand-held bell tree with three tiers of pellet bells
  • Kane () — small flat gong
  • Shakubyoshi (also called shaku) — clapper made from a pair of flat wooden sticks
  • Taiko (太鼓), literally "great drum"
  • Ikko — small, ornately decorated hourglass-shaped drum
  • sekkin - a lithophone either bowed or struck


  • Biwa a pear shaped lute
  • Gottan or hako-jamisen
  • Ichigenkin (kanji: 一絃琴) — monochord
  • Junanagen (十七絃) — 17-stringed koto
  • Koto (, ) — long zither
  • Kugo (箜篌) — an angled harp used in ancient times and recently revived
  • Shamisen (三味線) — A banjo-like lute with three strings, the shamisen was brought to Japan from China in the 16th century. Popular in Edo's pleasure districts, the shamisen was often used in Kabuki theater. Made from red sandalwood and ranging from 1.1 to 1.4 meters long, the shamisen has ivory pegs, strings made from twisted silk, and a belly covered in cat or dog skin. The strings, which are of different thickness, are plucked or struck with a tortoise shell pick.
  • Taishogoto (大正琴) — zither with metal strings and keys
  • Tonkori (トンコリ) — plucked instrument used by the Ainu of Hokkaidō
  • Yamatogoto () — ancient long zither; also called wagon ()


  • Kokyū - bowed lute with three (or, more rarely, four) strings and a skin-covered body



Japanese flutes are called fue (笛). There are eight traditional flutes, as well as more modern creations.

Reed Instruments[edit]

  • Hichiriki (篳篥) — double-reeded flute used in different kinds of music

Free reed mouth organs[edit]

  • Shō () — 17-pipe mouth organ used for gagaku
  • U () — large mouth organ


  • Horagai (法螺貝) — seashell horn; also called jinkai (陣貝)


See also[edit]


Gunji, Sumi; Johnson, Henry (2012). A Dictionary of Traditional Japanese Musical Instruments: From Prehistory to the Edo Period. Tokyo: Eideru Kenkyūjo. ISBN 978-4-87168-513-9. .